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Rita Ma      The warpgate is located on what Rita had referred to as a "concrete island". On arrival, one immediately understands what she meant. When the waters rose, some people built boats; others simply built up. The sun-bleached carcasses of manmade structures erupt from the waves here, canting at dangerous angles from how they collapsed in on one another. No other land breaks the waves, even out to the horizon.

     People have built a kind of shantytown on the uneven ground here, making homes and workplaces out of sheet metal and salvaged prefab materials. There is sand, but it's Mars-like and glittering: rust flakes and glass dust pounded into edgeless powder by the ceaseless waves, silicon being inexorably reclaimed. Seaweed drying on racks is the only hint of green.

     Larger than the island itself is the ship docked here for trade.

     The Union Santiago is a makeshift colossus. What must once have been a massive aircraft carrier was sleekly retrofitted into a survival ark for the wealthy during the last days of the Submergence, then bastardized with pragmatic jury-rigged alterations in the decades since. Gleaming luxury structures, cargo cranes, and wind turbines sprout from its deck.

     Welded to its side like a conjoined twin is an equally-large commercial ship, lower to the water and considerably worse for the passage of years. Sheet metal buildings and amateur additions sprout from it wherever they can find purchase, and visible patches and welds cover its hull. Metal connectors, sprawling catwalks, and even rope bridges join the two ships together into one.

     It's the aircraft carrier that's opened up to traders and merchants from the concrete island, some kind of forward bay yawning open and connecting to a pier. Far smaller, unaffiliated ragtag boats crowd around to trade as well, some with sails, and all in varying stages of rust and disrepair.

     The Santiago's forward bay is full of advanced submersibles, deep-sea unmanned drones, and high-tech diving suits, but the people crowding past them and noisily hawking their wares are offering simpler things: seafood, slightly ragged clothes, fishhooks and basic salvage. Off to the side, two dead sea monsters are hung up by their tails and being butchered into manageable chunks. One the size of a car, a sharklike thing with an armored head and a back half made of muscular finned tentacles; the other is eel-like and bigger than a schoolbus, with huge but eerily humanlike eyes, silvery scales, and complex snapping jaws full of needly teeth. Nobody seems to find them unusual.

     At the junction between the pier and the forward bay, waiting with quiet impatience, is a woman who flags you down with a crisp wave as you approach. "Vice Commander Renata," she says by way of introduction. "Matias has been waiting for you. Let's walk."
Rita Ma      "Vice Commander" Renata is a surprisingly young woman for her title, of average build and unremarkable features- save one. The few parts of her body not covered by her armored wetsuit- her hands, her neck, her face- display a network of flush golden-brown lines halfway in pattern between spiderwebbing cracks and veins. Uninterrupted "normal" skin only survives in patches. Her hair is tied up in a severe bun, and narrow glasses give her impassive expression a sharper edge than it would otherwise convey.

     As she turns to head further into the bay, one can see a single-edged straight sword slung over her back, but strange apertures on its back edge and cartridges near the handle hint at esoteric functions. One armor plate on her upper arm displays a circular symbol adorned with two stars.

     Now that you know what to look for, a handful of the other Santiago residents mingling here appear to have similar cracks on their skin- all less severe than Renata's- but none of the merchants from the little boats or concrete island do.

     She walks briskly, studiously ignoring the crowds, but not so briskly that you can't stop and poke at things if you're willing to jog to catch up.

     Then abruptly, near the back of the bay, Renata stops and turns a corner. "Commander," she says primly. They're here."
Candy      Candy, stepping through the warpgate with bandages clinging to his arms and a black eye on the mend, stops to observe the Santiago with a frown. Why is one of the two ships so much the worse for wear? His frown adopts a shade of annoyance when he seez the sheet metal shanties which cling to it like barnacles. His work boots leave impressions in artificial sand, where it lies, as he makes his way to the junction.

     "Yeah. Let's walk."

     Introduced by Renata, Candy looks the Commander up and down. Before anything else, there's a nod towards the lower of the two ships--the one much worse for wear. "What's that?"
Xion Emerging by warpgate onto the 'concrete island', Xion enters dressed in an unbuttoned red-and-grey plaid collared shirt over a black one-piece swimsuit cut at the quarterline with a vertical magenta stripe, a pair of jean shorts with a black belt and silver clasp, and sandals in mid thought.

"Huh! I thought the warpgate would just be on the ship, but would that be super unsafe for the people there? Maybe? Or do warpgates not form on moving objects? Well, nothing's really *fixed* in space, so--"

The noirette brushes gloveless fingers across the hair at the rise of her ear, and smiles. "Well, now it's a market day! So-"

Candy walks past her, full tilt and beat up, and Xion frowns and follows with interest. "Hey, before all that - did you lose a fight with a flight of stairs or a room full of tornadoes?"

Before the metaphorical nature of the statement is question, she adds: "Because it happens a lot."
Kukuru A water-covered world is a first for Kukuru. Exploring the ocean is one thing, but that's still within the confines of there being land somewhere around. This world's ocean everywhere system, however, is a new thing entirely to her.

Thus, it's a good thing she's actually dressed in something resembling mission-appropriate gear instead of her usual frilly shirt and dress combo. Instead, she's wearing a black sleeveless top with a matching light jacket over it, black shorts that look like they're made out of that mildly squeaky and crinkly waterproof material, and big ol' stomping boots that definitely aren't waterproof.

Luckily, the first destination is somewhere she's not getting those boots soaked just yet. Instead, it's a place called the Union Santiago! She looks up at the massive structure above her for several moments while letting out an awed and touristy "ooooh" noise, then turns her attention to the selling area.

Mostly because of the sea monsters getting carved up. Judging from the open-mouthed stare and mild drooling, Kukuru's probably tempted to go check that out, but the Vice Commander's arrival snaps her attention back to the actual reason for being here.

"It's nice to meet you, Re-na-ta. My name's Ku-ku-ru." She enunciates each syllable for both of their names in an almost sing-songy manner, eyeing her strange skin texture while following along. "Does that hurt?" She asks rather openly, even taking some time to really get her HEALER VISION focused on Renata to see if she can find any injuries relating to that strange skin pattern.

Candy's appearance, meanwhile, just gets Kukuru to approach him and reach for his arm and eye immediately. Her motions are firm and even (somewhat) fast, but if she can make contact, she produces some healing nanites with which to try and ease some pain, if not necessarily fixing anything.

"Careful. Was it a tornado full of staircases? You should be more careful." She sounds like she's scolding Candy after Xion puts that idea into her head. "... Also, who are you?"

It's only after that does she finally turn to the Commander with a polite, if mildly distressed smile. "Oh. It's nice meeting you, too. Is the... Uhh. That stuff on everyone's skin here. What's with that?"
Midway     One figure who has emerged from the warpgate makes no effort to conceal what she is. The Midway Princess towers above the typical human, ghostly white in skin and garb with stark black accents on her dress, the steel brace on the backs of her hands and fingers, and that distinctive collar of metal spines.

    She does not run or even jog. What she does is lift scarlet eyes to the hulk of the civilian ship bolted to the more intact military vessel, emitting a faint rumble. A hand unfolds, raising with a finger curling in a gesture. A half-dozen bulbous creatures emerge behind her. Nu-class. Rotund metal shells with the arms and legs resembling those of a human protruding from the underside. Light carriers, repurposed to transport materials. As the squadron emerges, she issues a simple verbal command.

    "Commence trade."

    As these creatures disperse to peddle their cargo of steel and oil, the Princess herself strides forth. Her attention is briefly captured by the butchering of the sea creatures. Others addressing Renata and her commander draw Midway's attention, though when she comes to a stop she does not speak. Her questions relate to the ship and the skin condition; as those have already been asked, she shall not repeat them.

    Arms folded, Midway simply towers, some three meters from metallic horns to black dress shoes.
Hibiki Tachibana     Hibiki has heard a decent bit about Rita's world before. Seeing it for herself is quite a different story, however.

    The shantytown arrival point is...something. It was hard for her to imagine what a place with absolutely no land must be like until now. Building your home on the debris of the old takes on an entirely new meaning now. What she's also never seen before is a waterborne ship /that/ big, let alone one with so much going on on top of its deck. The fact that people live upon it all the time really sinks in more than ever, no nautical pun intended.

    On top of the Union Santiago, its not-quite-sister-ship draws a good amount of her attention as she makes her way around to the front bay. There's a lot of ideas she could think up as to why that's there, leaving her stuck in her own thoughts as she maneuvers around crowds of traders and salvagers, feeling slightly out of place in her usual modern chic. There's only a brief pause and a blink when she catches two really big things strung up.

    "...What the heck did they use to hunt those...?"

    Thankfully, Renata is here to stop her from getting too caught up in the sights, and she stops to stare at the string of inhuman lines running through her flesh - it's impossible for her to not compare it somewhat with what she's seen from Rita, but she doesn't mention that out loud. "Uh, sorry to keep you waiting. Are, uh..." Whatever she was going to say ends up getting trailed off, as she gives the sword slung over the woman's back a good stare before fast-walking after her to keep up.

    Xion's question to Candy gets a slight grimace and a head turn away out of Hibiki, who decides to let him answer for himself. And since most of the obvious questions have already been asked, she finds herself pacing quietly (and awkwardly) next to the Midway Princess.

    After one glance up and realizing she's like half her height, she promptly faces right back forward and decides to ask something after all.

    "Are monsters like the ones hung up back there common here?"
I4 I4 was a little late getting there, which at all has nothing to do with mirrors and his looks.  Nor does it have anything to do with rotating platforms and seven other people not capable of understanding this.  He's just running late.  The normal running behind, probably because he got here earlier and was distracted by walking the city.

Caught by the Vice Commander, I4 gives a wave, but his eyes see the golden-brown lines.  It's more than just her, but others as they pass.  He thinks about scanning them for a moment, weighing in things, but decides to simply ask Rita over the radio.  "Nice to meet you, I'm I4," he says towards Renata.  

There is a definite economic disparity here, with how the ship is attached to later, versus the larger island.  More than that, there is a noticeable affliction to his eyes that is running through people, not on the main island.  There is a lot going on here, but he can pipe in about all of that later.  

Well, no...he does know the reason.  It was actually why he was here in the first place, and why Rita and he first fought a while ago.  Since then, it's been different, and they have a better understanding now, but it was something that bothered him.  He didn't think through the situation well, too hung up on the words on the paper and not the spirit of what he upheld.  

Course, it was also a harrowing few months too, and his views on a LOT of things have changed.  Also, people who have the right senses might notice I4 is not an android anymore.  He's warm to the touch, has a heartbeat, and breathes.  
Redshift Operators     The Redshifts don't like this, admittedly. It's similar to what they know, too close to home. People on the brink of death in a place inhospitable to humanity, trapped under horrible power structures in isolated vessels and stations. "Don't it seem *familiar*? Jesus. Half the same damn risks. Might as well be helping out an OSHAN station."

    "You believe Rita unwise? If she requests help, she receives help, she understands this world best." The swordswoman admonishes the gunman for his skepticism. They're all kitted out in their usual gear, which, for once, doesn't actually look too horribly out of place. They can walk around in hardsuits and it's just how some people likely are. "Besides, we cannot go about our usual ways without learning first. Brooding, ominous observation is essential."

    The big guy is busy purchasing fish in large numbers for a large meal he intends to cook. The wads of unmarked bills, nothing financially unusual but presented with the worst ominousness, are enough to make one assume that perhaps he's trying to launder money in the era of this fucking ancap atlantis shit. But no, he has that money because of bloody mercenary work! The astronaut fellow looks like they're sketching (startlingly well) the interior anatomy of the two monsters mid-butchery. They speak up to Xion: "Ships go through warpgates too. If they have a warpgate and go through a warpgate, it can be bad." The explanation might not be true, but the way the astronaut delivers it sounds like it isn't bullshit.

    It's the gunman and the cyborg who take the meeting. Best not involve the big guy, but they might call the astronaut over when needed. "Tell me what the deal is." The gruff leader of the four doesn't wait for introductions to start up speaking. "You needed underwater-capables with nuclear experience. I know some nuclear." Does he know engineering?

    He shifts his heavy rifle around his shoulder. He... DOES know engineering, right?
Vantablitz Remnants     "What do you think a 'concrete island' is?" "Probably the same as an 'artificial' island, right? Maybe for fish farming, or oil drilling." "Well, that *would* make sense. You usually know these things, so I'll trust you're smart enough to figure it out~"

think                                ~5 minutes later~                                

    "Ahn you're so stupid." "H-how was I supposed to know? We're talking about interdimensional travel here! We're lucky the water is still normal!" "No this water is definitely strange." "That's only because you've never even seen normal water!" ". . . mmmm . . . no, it's strange." "Ugh!"

    Ahn would not miss helping out dear Rita-chan, her first human contact in haha-don't-ask! However, after scrounging as much cash she could out of overgrown footlockers and dressers, she realized that she had no idea how to dress here to avoid notice. And so . . .

    Yeah, it's exactly the same as Rita's outfit. Well, no, the skirt is a little shorter and the jacket is brown instead of blue, because Ahn decided it looked weird with brown eyes and auburn hair instead of blue eyes and blonde hair, but that was the best she could do: raw imitation. Coincidentally, Lotus is nowhere to be seen anywhere around her. Just a single very normal 'girl-tall' woman of nebulously placed East-Asian descent, who clearly just let her hair grown to its terminal length and only ever clipped the bangs and pulled the back half into a ponytail ill-fitting to her fancy outfit, with numerous scars all over her fingers and knuckles. She is unfortunately overdressed.

    "Where's Rita? I don't know anyone here. This is so awkward. Nnn . . . I could-- that little boy! Oh thank the gods."

    Ahn waves down I4 immediately. Upon reaching conversational distance, she swoops down and picks him up in a brief I-can't-breathe hug, as his divine punishment for agreeing she gives good hugs. This is, in fact, done right where Renata can see, which makes Ahn shrink slightly in embarrassment, hands folding behind her back and two inches of her height disappearing. "Ah . . . we're um, I'm, here about the engine?"

    <<Ahn, you saw the monsters in the lobby, yes?>> <<That's a cargo bay>> <<You live in a bunker not a ship. Anyways, I'd like to eat them. Buy one for me.>> <<What?! No!>>
Rita Ma      Midway herself- being at least recognizably humanoid- is treated to suspicious stares, curious murmurs, and children running to hide behind their parents, but no confrontation or open panic. Her creatures, though, provoke screaming, running, and widespread panic among the residents of the concrete island. It isn't until they convincingly demonstrate their neutrality that anyone dares to approach them.

     When people finally do get accustomed to the foreign entities, Midway will discover that the trade in oil- if not steel- is exceptionally brisk. Salvage is in high supply, but of course a world like this would be fuel-starved.

     Renata's eyes as she regards Ahn's hug are some of the coldest and most piercing that have ever been set in a human skull. "An engineer," she says, with such strict neutrality that any conceivable feeling could lurk beneath it. "Good. But your work will still be contingent on the divers' success."

     Hibiki can discern, in that moment of focus, some evidence as to how the monsters were killed. The larger, eel-ish one is carved up with hacking blows, as if someone with superhuman strength mangled it with a sword. The smaller, sharklike one is peppered with thin metal spikes the size and shape of pencils, some of them buried deep into its body where they hit between its armor plates. Neither show evidence of conventional munitions being used.

     "Yes," Renata answers her questions simply. Then, after a moment's pause: "More than humans, now. More of them and less of us every year." There's no particular mourning in it; just a plainly-stated fact.

     The gruff man's questions make her look back over her shoulder and stare for a moment. "So you know about the reactor, too. We were trying to be discreet. Don't speak too loudly; there's no sense in starting a panic. We'll discuss it momentarily."

     Kukuru's scan reveals a lot of old injuries on Renata's body, hinting at a very active combat role, but none connected to the markings on her skin- rather, the dark lines seem to be altered, if healthy, cells. "Does it hurt?" Renata doesn't stop to think. "Of course it does," she says in a bland and tired tone, as if it's a direly common question. "I'll live."
Rita Ma      "Commander, they're here."
     "Eh, how often have I told you not to call me that?"
     A sigh. "Lead Harpoonist Matias, they're here."
     "Good, good! You're learning."

     "Commander"- no, "Lead Harpoonist" Matias is a giant of a man, past his prime but not by much. He's broad-shouldered, square-jawed, and muscular, and makes no effort to hide his receding hairline. He wears something like a sleeveless armored wetsuit with a metal ring at the neck where a helmet would fasten. A greatcoat is slung around his shoulders and fastened with a single clasp, but only one arm- a robot-like prosthesis- is partially hidden by the sleeve; his other, organic arm is bared to show that same circular tattoo, but with three stars.

     Behind him is a scene that half the passersby are trying very hard not to pay attention to, and the other half are watching with anxious fixation. Two men in neat olive cloth uniforms- the symbols sewn on their sleeves matches the one on Renata's suit, but starless- are restraining a third. Rather than edged weapons, they carry heavy batons and weird-looking guns.

     The restrained man is clearly impoverished by the state of his clothes, and has a lesser case of Renata's cracked skin, but his cracks are outlined with thin red inflammation. He's beginning to bruise, too, but that seems more related to the batons than the disease.

     The restraint is almost unnecessary. He hangs limp and despondent in their grasp. "-endangering the public health," one of the uniformed men says in a voice so firm as to almost be caustic. It seems you've caught the tail end of a conversation. When Matias nods, one of them jerks on the man's arm and they begin to take him away, signaling the dispersal of the crowd of rubberneckers.

     Matias acknowledges the incident with a rueful smile and a 'what can you do' shrug as he turns back to the group. "Illegal stills," he says, as if that explains everything. "But you're not here for that. You're here about the salvage dive, aren't you?" Everyone is offered a meaty handshake in turn, though he laughs good-naturedly when he has to look up at Midway for once.

     He takes a moment to field the questions he can. Kukuru gets an avuncular chuckle: "You mean the Fish Disease. They say you get it from eating one of the sea monsters, or from drinking water that's been improperly purified. You usually see it on people putting themselves at risk by making their own drinking water, and just make themselves a burden on everyone else by trying. But at least we have the medicine to make it survivable. Most aren't so lucky." Renata's lips twitch and she looks away, but doesn't say anything.

     Eventually, he claps his hands with a sense of finality and gets to the point. "Listen. I'm not allowed to send my own men on that dive. I've talked to the Council and they call it an 'unnecessary excursion'. But we can't plug our ears and pretend like the reactor is going to be fine forever. That's why I need you. Let's head somewhere quieter and-" His eyes dart up to Midway again, then to the claustrophobic passageways that lead deeper into the ship. "... No, we'll have to take a different route then. Hm."
Candy      Candy answers Xion and Kukuru sourly. "I lost a fight with Lilian. That one, the goats took off on her." They can interpret his tone, at least, if they've never heard the colloquialism, to mean 'she's lost it.' "Shot Staren--all this, for trying to stop her," he says, gesturing up and down to himself. He doesn't just sound angry--he sounds a little hurt.

     There's a second glance towards Kukuru when she asks who he is. "We spoke once or twice. My name's Candelario. You can call me Candy for short," he says, softening up a little in response to Kukuru's healing. Or perhaps her firmness. Or perhaps a little of both. "That was nice of you, by the way. Thanks."

     Candy doesn't seem terribly out of place, aside from his injuries--though his simple clothes might give the impression he wouldn't have much to trade or reason for official business with the Santiago. He's heartened enougb by Kukuru to have a touch of his normal demeanor, when he sees I4 squeezed by Ahn.

     There's an impish smile painted on his face and he wrinkles his nose playfully. "Good for you, Foureyes."

     His handshake is like a dead fish for 'Lead Harpoonist' Matias. And when he mentions those making their own water being a burden on everyone else, Candy's gaze hardens. "Is that right?" he asks coolly. "Wonder why they'd want to make their own, ah? Lead the way to that reactor, my friend, and you can tell us all about that, too."
Kukuru Midway, Hibiki, and I4 (but different) round out the group of familiar faces while a whole bunch of red-suited strangers and someone who could only be described as 'girl-tall' with someone of much less tallness (but seemingly familiar with Rita and I4) fill in the gaps of unfamiliar faces.

Together, all of these things seem to put a light flutter in Kukuru's heart and a beaming smile on her face even as  the more professional demeanor of Renata makes it clear that physical affection might not be returned if her reaction to Lotus is any indication.

"We heard a bit about that thing, yeah. I dunno a lot about fixing stuff, but fixing people and cutting up stuff trying to hurt them's easy enough." She offers with a helpful tone, turning to Renata once she indicates that there is indeed pain.

"... Oh. Lemme know if this helps, then." And then like with Candy, Kukuru projects some vague healing nanites right at Renata's markings. It's more like a cloud than anything physically wet, at least, as she tries to just brute force a fix right into her system. There's also a warm, tingling sensation behind it that might even help with easing the pain!

Matias speaks, there's a man getting dragged off, and Rita and Matias explain what those markings are. Making another connection between that and what she just saw on Renata along with several people here, Kukuru turns her attention on the restrained man to see if, like Renata, he's just as injured or if the red inflammation might be an indicator of some other hidden malady entirely.

"A shortage of food and water, too? Man... That sucks." She sighs lightly, frowning while turning to Matias. "If this Council's not worried about it, then... What does get them worried? Goats?"

There's a crossed wire there as she turns to Candy. "Oh, anyone would get worried if their goats took off. Maybe... Oh, maybe there's a shortage of food in her world like there is here, too." Kukuru suggests, looking towards Matias for confirmation of that. "If we need a quiet spot... How's somewhere on top of this big boat, then?"
Midway     Steel creaks when Midway unfolds one hand to meet the Lead Harpoonist's. It's like shaking hands with a steel beam, or perhaps a hydraulic press. Scarlet eyes follow the man as he's dragged away by the peacekeepers, zooming in briefly on his skin leisions and the notable inflammation. A more severe case than what is on display elsewhere. Endangering public health, indeed. Her gaze returns to Matias directly, staring down at this mountain of a human from her distinctly inhuman stature.

    "Proceed as planned, Lead Harpoonist. I will not have a-- human holding unwanted concerns on my account." She distinctly catches herself from referring to the man as a Surface-Dweller. Given the context of this place, such a designation seems unwise. Her eyes travel back to the monsters being butchered across the cargo bay, then back to the harpoonist. Her unfolded hand raises, fingers flexing in a way that strains the brace running up the backs of her fingers, "I understand the need for discretion. Proceed."

    Outside, the squadron of Nu-class seem awfully excited that people run away from them, but they are completely unarmed and relatively harmless, and so unable to really do anything 'instinctive' about it. They also have their orders. Once their harmlessness is clear, the trade begins. Granted, the Nu can only rasp out one-word phrases in stark contrast to their eloquent leader, it's enough to get some business done.
Xion When the Syndicate 'astronaut' addresses her on the way to the meeting on the matter of warpgates, Xion considers that for a moment, and then turns to look back at the warpgate, worriedly.

"Wow, I hope nobody goes through that the wrong way then. Be careful, okay?" She suggests, biting her thumb for a moment.

Lady Large psycho hugcrushers I4 in the periphery as Xion worries over Candy and listens to the situation, frowning again at the comments about a 'Reactor'.

Offered a handshake, she looks down at the hand, and then looks up at the man, squints, and clasps his hands in both of hers and gently holds him there.

Even if he tries to pump.

Then, smiling, she's passed on.

She turns to the tall and twink-assaulting Ahn, smiling emptily for long heartbeats before looking down at I4, being held.

"Hey, I4, are you going to be OK? I heard about you becoming. . ." She smiles differently, her head tilting. "-and I hope you're not treating yourself riskily."

"Is it a parts thing, the reactor, or a fuel thing, or... What's the problem you're hoping to solve? Can you say? Will you?"
I4 I4 looks up, getting only a few seconds of warning before he is HUGGED.  It's very tight, and surprising, though his face is turning a shade of red...probably more from the tightness rather than embarrassment, there is no proof, though.

"Nice to see you too, Ahn and I guess Lotus.." he says with some effort and strain.  Once he's given a looser hug or set back down, he breathes a bit to get some oxygen in him.  "Yeah, she can't...long story you should talk to her," he mentions about Rita.  Brushing himself off, he does give Ahn a smile, "Good to see another friendly face.." he muses.  

He wouldn't call Kukuru's face UNFRIENDLY, but he finds dealing with her exhausting.  Also, Candy is likely to bully him.  Biki is cool though, and I4 is visibly scared of Midway, and he makes sure to keep someone between him and her.  The Gunman and the cyborg he doesn't know very well.

Candy mentions something about Lilian that catches his ear.  Did she shoot Staren?  And Candy's injuries...?  He rubs his nose, focus I4. Xion speaks up, and I4 coughs a little, "I'm fine, really...thanks!" He does look at Candy, in that 'ok we need to talk about that thing you just said' but also, 'When we're not going to interrupt the Spear man.  

"Salvage would be a bit odd if it wasn't either very dangerous...a reactor on the other hand..." a pause, "Would it be nuclear?" he muses, mostly to Xion, but like...not at all caring if they're just talking and walking either.  
Vantablitz Remnants     While I4 is being squeezed, he sees a tiny portion of the Rita-copy jacket extrude a 'bundle of threads' to pat him on the head and mess up his hair a little. He gets put down in short order thankfully.

    Ahn shivers under Renata's utterly frigid stare. A poker face is the absolute opposite of what she has. She reacts as if that piercing gaze had spotted the exact point where bags of cocaine are sewn into her jacket, and it's only the fact that she physically can't start sweating fast enough that saves her from doing so under Renata's mercifully brief look. "How do I . . . Like in, right--!" Ahn suddenly jumps to attention, straightening out and saluting in precisely inaccurate movie fashion, with an equally imitated "Yes ma'am! I'm the engineer ma'am!"

    The Redshifts then catch her attention for very obvious reasons, whereupon she suddenly switches to trying to shake the Gruff Man's hand. "Ah, so you must be the divers! Pleased to meet you! I'm Ahn. Your suits-- they're so cool! I want to look at them later!" This is, admittedly, an easy mistake to make. Only when Renata turns and walks them off to meet 'the Commander', and there is some time to kill in transit, does Ahn speak next.

    "Seriously, what's with her? She looks like military, but that look in her eyes; I didn't do anything to deserve *that*. Did I upset her? Does she really not want us here? Maybe she's just too old to have kids now and I4 reminded her? It doesn't seem like she's all that bothered by the disease." There is a very high probability that Ahn doesn't realize that she's muttering this with her mouth and not her brain.

    Somewhat fortunately, the number of questions then exceeds her capacity to monologue upon meeting Matias. Her hand is dwarfed by him, downright dainty by comparison. She struggles to find a hand-shake appropriate level of grip strength, modulating it up and down for a second before settling on 'a little less than Matias'.

"What's the difference between a Lead Harpoonist and a commander?"
"Does a Harpoonist hunt whales like in the old times? Or maybe those giant monsters?"
"Wow, did you really tattoo your badge of rank? That's hardcore . . ."
"Stills? As in, solar stills, for water condensation? That doesn't sound like it should get infected unless they really screwed up badly.
"I think I have purification tablets somewhere in my bag . . ."
"Ah, well, I guess that's how the law works."
"I wonder if that disease has something to do with how Rita feels about police . . ."
"Oh, can we see it? I might not look it, but I have plenty of experience you know~"

    <<You'd better buy me a monster after this. Look at how much fun you're having.>> <<As if I could afford one!>> <<Then get me one of the little ones running around carrying oil.>> <<Fine, fine, later.>>
Hibiki Tachibana     "...Mmn." Hibiki gives a curt sound at Renata's answer, along with a small downturn of her head. Things here really are that bad, huh? Fighting to survive on an ocean with predators like that swimming under you...the people here have it rough. That eel--was Renata the one who killed it with those kind of wounds, she wonders? Then again, swords aren't exactly an uncommon weapon. It gives her a bit of peace to know that there are people able to carve those things up, at least. In a place where resources are scarce, she's not surprised guns didn't seem to be involved...

    Still, it's hard to worry too much with these many people on call for this, both familair faces and new ones. Kukuru in particular she's still grateful to for the birthday gifts. And I4 is--oh, he's getting crushed. Good for him. Good for him.

    Matias continues the trend of making Hibiki feel small, just not as much as Midway. Lead Harpoonist...she knows the term Harpoonist, capital H, from Rita. So if he's the lead one around here, that puts how important he must be into perspective - if his imposing presence and prosthetic limb didn't lend enough of an air to the idea that this guy is probably both in charge and more than able to fold a sea monster in half if it came down to it.

    Before there's any proper greeting though, her lips purse hard at the altercation going on in the background. He has the Disease too...? No, the cracks look a bit different. The explanation on 'endangering public health' and 'illegals' gets a slightly grimace out of her, though she nonetheless holds her hand out to give a brief shake when it's her turn.

    Between that and Rita's conflicting information compared to Matias' when it comes to Fish Disease, she's not sure what to think. Maybe none of them actually know for sure how it's caught. Or maybe...

    "...Yeah. Lead the way. You know the place better than we do, after all." Discretion. Right. "Does this mean you're going around the 'Council' to do this, or you're just not allowed to use any of your own resources on it?"
Redshift Operators     The gunman spends some time staring at the fish disease punishment scene. Just kind of staring... Those masks are sometimes so hard to see sentiment behind. What is he thinking? Well, something that might only be fully formed after learning more about this.

    "Newt, c'mon." The gunman waves to the astronaut, who follows along after a ten-second delay of mental processing. While the astronaut might not be a great handshake purely because they completely forget to respond to it, the leader has a tensely firm one, and the cyborg's is, of course, pure metal; unlike him, her dominant hand was the one lost.

    "All we were told, you see, was a need for nuclear ability and diving capacity. We are suited for both, to a degree." As they progress further in, the ninja speaks in her usual ways. "Hmmhmhmhm. And your council, they believe the difficulties beyond your men? Or simply beneath their attention? Oho, I'm certainly interested in seeing the threats in play."

    The gunman is the one who gets the attention from Ahn next. The sudden physicality is disorienting. "Guh!" He sort of settles into it. "Not local. We do some undersea station ops. You're not lookin' for *us*. But you'll be working with us. Newt, found your contact."

    "Engineer." One of them speaks up. The astronaut has tagged along and is just next to Ahn. They fix an opaque stare on her. "Too fast. Make a list of those. Pick the most important, one per thirty seconds." They're speaking as if reciting a rule from memory, one they specifically had to adapt to using themselves for similar reasons. "When we learn what the mission is, start writing down directions for me. I do tech for my group. We'll be working together."
Rita Ma      Kukuru's healing nanites don't make the markings go away- or at least, they don't have a chance to before Renata disperses the cloud swiftly with a burst of compressed air from her sword. "Don't," she says sharply, and then: "I don't know you, and I don't trust you. Outsider magic won't be taken kindly." But even if they'd had time to work, it makes sense: the problem isn't the mutated markings themselves, but the body's inherent long-term response to them.

     Her analysis of the impoverished man underlines that: the red inflammation is his immune system attacking the mutated cells, tearing his body apart in the process. Whatever medicine Renata is getting to suppress that response, he hasn't had a dose in too long.

     Candy gets an arched eyebrow and a gruff noise of skeptical acknowledgement. "Life on the Union Santiago is expensive, but safe. That's why everyone wants to move here. If he doesn't like it, he can go join the refugee fleets; we'll have his room filled by nightfall."

     "If you say so," Matias says to Midway with a heave of his great shoulders. "Just don't go making any doorways bigger," he adds with a chuckle. He pulls open a heavy door and starts down a narrow maintenance corridor headed deeper into the ship, with walls and floor of patchwork metal. En route, he does his best to keep up with Ahn's rapid-fire questions.

     "'Commander' makes it sound like I don't do anything myself! 'Lead Harpoonist' makes that clearer, don't you think? We've got two jobs: protecting people from monsters, and protecting them from themselves. All of us get it tattooed; it isn't like there's any retiring." Her question about how the mutagen could get through a solar still gets a thoughtful pause out of him: "You know, I don't actually know. Maybe it evaporates with the water? I'm not an engineer."
Rita Ma      After about eighty feet and a couple of turns, the maintenance corridor opens up into a large but mostly unpeopled room where eerie red-and-blue lights shine down onto rows and rows of plants in the dark. There are only three types, planted in anxiously-tended rows. It's the first hint of terrestrial green visible since coming out of the warpgate.

     "Impressive, huh? We use everything for compost here. Sunchokes, cassava, lentils- we used to have sweet potatoes, but a disease got them a few years back. The Santiago is one of the few places in the world where humans still practice agriculture. We couldn't even have them out in the sun, or the salt-spray would kill them!" He keeps moving onwards, walking between the rows of precious greenery, but since there's nobody to hear he lets out a tired sigh and switches conversational gears to answer Xion.

     "It's a parts problem. All of the parts. Miss Engineer here can take a look at it, but I don't know what good that'll do. We've got a reactor meant to last for fifty years, and it's been running now for eighty. Not a damn thing isn't ready to break. The engineers do their best, but nobody knows how to reproduce a lot of the advanced parts, so they're mostly just filling cracks when something snaps." He breathes out through his teeth, biting back obvious frustration. "The Founders' Council doesn't want to hear it, but it can't go on like this. Even the refugee fleets out there depend on our reactor, whether they know it or not: if we needed fuel ourselves, we wouldn't have any left to sell them."

     "There's the ruin of an old city fifty miles from here, and a few thousand feet down- they'll have you breathing neohydrox, unless you're some kind of fish-person. They built it way up in the Andes after the Submergence started, and it's got a reactor almost the same kind as we've got. They won't let me send my men down there," he says with a nod towards Hibiki, "so I want you to go down there and clean it out. One of everything. Once we can reverse-engineer them, we can get a supplier in the Multiverse to make more. Hell, maybe it'll even help ships other than this one."
Xion Xion listens to the whole explanation of the reactor.

At a certain point, the frame cuts to her and she's taking notes with a pen and yellowpad with well-handled pages curled over the top.

Then she breaks out into laughter with an exaggerated ker-klick of her pen.

"You're going to reverse engineer it? Well..."

She cranes her head towards the Redshifts. "Actually you don't have to."
Midway     Midway produces a white sphere, which unfurls stubby wings and cracks itself open to reveal a maw of mismatched, jagged teeth. The single burning red off-center eye opens. All in all about the size of a beach ball, the Princess releases her Abyssal fighter craft to follow the party through corridors clearly too small for herself to fit through without it being awkward at best, risky at worst. It is this hideous thing that accompanies Matias while he leads the way.

    It corners pretty well and coasts at a respectable, unhurried speed. The aerodynamics of it are a mystery. Breaking into the larger space, the aircraft immediately ascends and accelerates, circling beneath the level of the lights.

    "Ultraviolet. Clever," Midway's voice crackles through the aircraft, sounding like an old two-way radio.

    "So you seek skilled engineers capable of reaching these crushing depths to seize the parts you require. Or parts similar enough to be made to work. Risky." Swinging around, the Abyssal fighter descends. Little stubs extend from the underside and it perches on one of the grow-beds. Turning around, it focuses its single red eye on Matias, "Fortunately I am more than capable of reaching the depths you describe."

    Out in the cargo hold, Midway herself simply stands there, her arms folded, staring out through the bay door towards the sea. Nothing she's said is repeated out loud. For the unfamiliar, she simply seems lost in thought.
Candy      Candy rolls his eyes at Kukuru's misperception of the colloquialism, but in a good natured way rather than impatient or frustrated. "Hey 'engineer,'" he says playfully to to Ahn, following Matias along with the others. "Ahn, right?" That's what I4 called her. "Foureyes didn't tell me about no *lady friend.*"

     He saw that Look of I4's. He took it to mean 'tease harder.' Outwardly, he's in that mischievous kind of mood. Maybe a little of it is sincere. But there's a lot going on in his head right now.

     Candy materializes a canteen. He unscrews it as he walks, helping himself to a hearty gulp of water. It's outsider magic. A quiet way of saying 'try me' to both Harpoonists. "Safe," he says, nodding once. "I get it."

     "Hey, space people, Ahn," he says to the Redshifts and Ahn. "I dunno nothing about nuke-you-lar, but you just let me know if you need something." A pause, a glance towards the Harpoonists, to make sure they understand as well--"Anything," he continues, tracing his hand along the wall of the maintenance corridor, "And I'll get it to you. Or whoever's in need." In other words, he might be 'endangering the public health' himself soon.

     "Show me some of these advanced parts," he says, "And I'll whip up what I can. Whatever I can't, the space people and the pretty giant lady can dive for in that city."
I4 I4's head is given the pat by the hidden Lotus.  I4 just takes this in stride, because at this point everyone just THINKS he's a child.  Great...great, now he's going to have to deal with that for a while.  Never mind he's actually ten, but he was an android until last week, so...shit he is a child, technically.  Age is stupid.

With the explanation of the situation going, I4 listens, taking mental notes.  Clear out a wreck, secure salvage, which might have a reactor...and they're going to try and reverse engineer a reactor to fix their reactor which is way over their thirty thousand mile warranty.  With a breath, he commits this to memory.

"I swear, it seems like they're plugging their ears and praying that the status quo hangs out.." he muses.  "Ugh...it's not about keeping things the same, but trying to make things better."  

Then Candy makes his life harder, to which he sighs and puts his face in his hands.  "You know, I'm starting to believe you deserved it..." he says, in a kidding, but embarrassed tone.  "Not that I'll know, she's all but disowned me," Obviously not meaning Ahn at this point.  
Kukuru Renata's suspicion is met with a disappointed sigh from Kukuru, and the horned woman slumps a bit after leaving the Vice Commander's markings alone. Ahn's reaction to Renata is met with an apologetic smile, though, and she shifts over to give her a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "Don't worry. I'm sure she appreciates the... Um." She starts speaking with her voice lowered, but trails off while looking towards Renata once more. "Is she that old...?"

The world may never know. With the information that's been shared and what she sees of the red-marked man, however, she's getting a better idea of just how rough things are with that disease in both the long and short term.

"It's too bad there's no easier way to handle this sickness. At least, not yet. But if you have anyone that just caught it, maybe the doctors at the Concord might be able to figure something out." She suggests while following Matias through the doorway and deeper inside, arms dangling loosely at her sides as she squeezes through the narrower tunnels while occasionally glancing back to make sure nobody gets lost on the way.

And also to make sure she's not going the wrong way herself, but it'd be pretty hard to get lost as long as she keeps pace with everyone else.

The sight of the greenery in the more colorfully lighted area of the ship has Kukuru frowning again, but not in disapproval. At least, not towards the plants. She's only heard some hints before, but Matias confirms her suspicions once he talks about the Founders' Council more.

"That's really rough. If you really gotta work around them, though, then it's a good thing you got us to help. And if you're looking outside of here for more development stuff..." A light seems to turn on in her head, and she chuckles lightly as Candy mentions getting 'anything'. "Right. You should get in touch with the Concord, too. We've got all sorts of useful development-y stuff and smart people, so getting stuff to fix up your nukle... Nuclear generator should be easy once we get enough parts to do..."

She looks towards Newt with a vaguely pleading look. He seems smart, so maybe he'll know how to put this in better words! She does raise an eyebrow when I4 mentions getting disowned, though, and her gaze just fixes right on him. "Who disowned you? Do you need a place to stay?"
Hibiki Tachibana     There's another subtle downshift of Hibiki's expression as they go on. Not enough medicine for everyone. Refugee fleets. This disease...things in Rita's home really are dire. And the Union Santiago clearly has its own share of problems, and things she feels are problems but they likely don't. Is this really what humanity has been forced to live like? Even on a massive boat like this, one of their 'last bastions'? ...The walk over is uneasy and quiet on her part.

    She is, however, surprised to see greenery. She probably shouldn't be, if she thought hard about 'where does food come from??' but she is. "One of the few places in the world..." She repeats quietly to herself, following along through the rows and glancing between them. It really puts things even more into perspective. Before anything else...this one massive problem needs to be resolved some way or another.

    "This Council...they sound like the kind of people who want to say nothing will go wrong until it does." Her tone carries some agreement with I4's thoughts on it. "And if the reactor shuts down, you'll have a mess bigger than anyone can clean up to deal with, huh?" Closing her eyes, and then inhaling and exhaling...she nods.

    "Alright, I'm in. I'm no Harpoonist, or even an engineer like some of these guys," she says with vague gestures towards everyone's favorite astronaut. "But I can help make sure we get those parts back safe and sound." She pauses, at the comment given by Midway's spooky remote fighter, and attempts to remember a time she ever tried diving nearly that deep.

    She can't. It'll probably be fine. If space is fine, there's no reason underwater can't be. Probably. Most likely.
Vantablitz Remnants     Ahn getting stuck with Neutron is something precisely just Ahn out of this group could be absolutely delighted about. "Newt? Oh I love that name! It's really cute~ I'm Ahn. No last name to remember. Just Ahn." Those two boys gonna get handshook too. If Neutron is still bad at it, Ahn remains equally trash. "Huh? Oh, you mean the questions? Well, I'm *really* excited to learn about this setting. It's hard to keep them in! And what am I going to do if I don't know everything I need to, right? Fixing a nuclear reactor isn't easy; the more information about it the better."

    This is about the point where a female voice with a smoky 'broken vocoder' vibrato kicks in, just kind of somewhere around Ahn's head. It could be deniably assumed to be a shitty radio. "No no, he's right. You're clearly overwhelming the human-leader. You can't just talk to everyone like we do." Ahn startles slightly, then puffs out her cheeks. "Fine. Thirty seconds." She nods agreeably to Neutron's request. "No problem, Newt!"

    Partway to their destination, Ahn mumbles to herself "*I'd* like to have filled a room or two . . . I wouldn't have even charged anything . . ."

    <<A lighter than air mutagen?>> <<Which is hydrophilic, sodium unreactive, non-soluble . . .>> <<Shouldn't you tell them? You spent so long working on mutagenic virology.>> <<Yeah. Too bad I wasn't any good at it.>> <<. . .>>

    She's startled out of what appears to be deep thought by Candy, stares at him uncomprehendingly, and then her eyes widen, her face reddens, and she waves her hand away. "Ahaha! Friends? Really? We just met the other day. Oh, that's so sweet of him. Ah, but of course I'll tell you if we need something! Even with all the schematics in my head, it's not like I can do anything without raw materials, right?"

    Ahn's mood improves when they arrive at the meeting spot. Her hands clap together and she pops up on the balls of her feet. "Oh! Hydroponics! I know all about this! I do *so* much growing, you have no idea, haha~ But that's a huge shame. What kind of disease? I'm sure it couldn't be fungal, seeing as there wouldn't be any spores on a ship that never makes landfall. Bacterial then? Phytoplasmas could transfer from--" Ahn suddenly recalls Neutron's advice, and shuts up. "Well, if you ever want more variety, I have a big room like this and a lot of different seeds." she tries with a smile instead. Then she goes quiet and listens.

    "Neohydrox . . . ? Ah, I get it. If there's no nitrogen in the mixture, there's no risk of nitrogen narcosis. That's clever . . ." This is probably being filed away for later. "If you still have uranium stockpiles, the original designers probably anticipated a real long haul, right? Even with a very high core life, it doesn't matter as long as heat stress and mechanical wear on the machine exists. But I bet none of the computers are exactly in good shape either. Tolerances on components like control rods are really low. You need all of the original pieces, stripped down as far as they go, to take exact measurements and compositional analyses of, so you can have replacements alloyed and machined, right? This isn't a question of just needing to see the blueprints."

    A pause. "This sounds pretty simple. I'm sure it'll be fine!"
Redshift Operators     "Your earth's in a worse state than mine. Fuck. Nothing specialized to sea agriculture?" Grumbles the leader of the gang. "Already imagining it now. Some bastard trying to hold on to his GMO patent at the end of the world. Hmh." He makes a grim noise. He then regards the big man, looking him up and down. He ponders the difference between 'commander' and 'lead harpoonist', and thinks back to a certain hands-on captain he lost couple fights against a while back. His hands clench a little, tensely. A quick glance to Candy, and a shake of his head. The man knows nuclear explosives, not nuclear reactors. It's the engineer, Ahn, who will be needed here.

    "You'll have something ready to receive it, yes? Please recall, nuclear systems such as this frequently carry a great curse within. I do not wish to see a 'human robots' procession here to carry away contaminated parts." The cyborg is the team's medical specialist. "As one with a deep understanding of such curses, it is my duty to prevent their spread. You seem to have your hands full, in some way, with this mutagen's admittedly-stylish manifestations." One robotic arm crosses across a meat one. This is a harder requirement for her.

    Ahn's in a back and forth with one of them. "Neutron." Says the astronaut, after considerable delay. "My name. That's Red Dwarf, she's White Dwarf. Our big friend is Red Giant. You're Ahn... Good." There's a sense of warmth behind the neutral voice in that opaque helmet. The way of speaking is Off, but Neutron has instantly taken a liking to Ahn for some reason. They nod a couple times after she demonstrates their advice. "Good. Yeah, like that, I think." They're guesstimating normal attention levels. "It looks like we know what we'll need. I'll need a list of where we're going and what could be sealed between us and that, so I can bring the right breaching equipment." That question is half to Matias and half to Ahn. "By the time we deploy. That'll make sure you can get to where you need to go."

    Kukuru's pleading look is answered with a blank stare. They only respond when there's a quick nudge from the gunman. "Oh. Okay. She means that if you can prove your nautical government system is producing ambitious social outcomes, the Concord will give the Council a lot of funding and resources to do new things with your power. To gain that backing, you'll want to cite..." They then look around. They're currently searching for a redeeming quality. They spend about twenty seconds on that and then stop, and don't verbally indicate they've stopped.
Rita Ma      Renata, at the rear of the party, stares at the abyssal fighter craft with muted but pure disgust- lipcurl, headtilt, and subconsciously placing a hand near her diving knife included. It isn't dissimilar to the way the people on the concrete island initially responded to Midway's other minions; just the other side of "fight or flight".

    That seems to be how things are here. Anything not human-shaped is presumed hostile. It's difficult to blame them.

     Matias seems to instinctively feel the same way, though he's better at hiding it under a cover of geniality. "That deep even without a suit? ... Honestly, that's a relief. We can give diving equipment to most people, but not even mine would fit you, haha!"

     In response to I4, he shrugs his shoulders. "That's how it's always been. The people who commissioned the Santiago weren't thinking this far ahead- after all, in the long run, mankind will go extinct. They just wanted to live out their lives in comfort and safety... but, of course, then they had kids."

     Candy summons a canteen. Renata doesn't blink. She unholsters a weird compressed-air needlegun from her hip and fires a pencil-sized needle squarely through it, with no gunshot but a hiss of gases and an eerie whistle. It narrowly misses Candy's fingers. Matias turns on her, scolding: "Renata." She stows the gun, but doesn't look away from Candy. Matias sighs.

     "I don't know where you picked up Teon Ma's ideals from," he says, "but keep them off this ship, Candelario. I've spent too much of my life keeping humanity safe for you to rock the boat. Can't you see how precarious things are already?"
Rita Ma      Finally, after reaching the other end of the huge grow-room, Matias opens another heavy door- this one leading out to daylight. "If you want to have a look at the reactor now, I know a shortcut." There's a hole in the hull in this small room where a terrible force punched straight through the metal years ago, but it's high enough above the waterline not to matter, and a makeshift catwalk clings to the ship's hull outside. Matias casually steps out into the evening air, though the catwalk groans under his feet, and gestures for everyone to follow.

     Out here, the sun is setting over the sea- it's beautiful, but Matias and Renata have seen it often enough to not even spare it a glance. Seagulls that nest in the Santiago's upper reaches circle and cry. The path forward- as demonstrated by Matias- is precarious, necessitating agile leaps between narrow exterior pipes, groaning catwalks, and even the use of footholds welded onto or carved out of the sloping hull. The alternative is a long drop down into the hostile sea.

     "The Concord? I've considered it," he says to Kukuru casually while sidling across a harrowing gap purely via welded-on pegs. "But even if I could convince the Council, what do you think we have to trade? This world can't compete with one that isn't ruined. Anything we have, others have more of. Having new reactor parts made alone will likely cost us dearly."

     After heaving himself up onto a higher catwalk, he leans down and offers a (mechanical) hand up to anyone who needs it. Renata doesn't; she simply wall-runs along to the hull and hops up, prompting Matias to scoff. "Wrong. Hydrogen becomes narcotic below 500 MSW," she says to Ahn on landing, pronouncing the acronym with practiced ease. "But you need to be a little narced to stave off HPNS. So, neohydrox."

     "You'll be fine," Matias says to Hibiki reassuringly. There's another miniature platforming segment here that he handles with aplomb: a crane's cable conveniently left dangling over a gap in the catwalk, necessitating an Indiana Jones-like swing. "Even if all you can do is fight, that'll help. Sea monsters usually nest in those old reactors; it's probably the residual heat."

     To Ahn, casually, on the other side: "Core life is high because of a 'burnable poison'. You know what that is? ... Hahaha, I sure as hell don't. But one of the engineer guys talked about it all the time. For the disease, I don't know. Maybe something thawed out with the seeds?"

     Finally, the awful precarious catwalk-exterior climb ends at another hole in the hull, which Matias ducks through into another maintenance corridor. "Hah. See? I told you I knew a shortcut." To the cyborg woman, off-handedly: "We have drones. They can probably hack it. And if they can't..."

     A little pause. Then: "We can find volunteers. Anything further you can do to help is appreciated, but human life isn't the most precious thing out here. The architecture to support human life is. We're at or over capacity all the time, and people die when that capacity goes down. There's, what, maybe a hundred thousand humans left? It was millions, right after the Submergence. And now you couldn't find a place to put ten thousand more."
Midway     Midway suddenly moves, perhaps startling the workers around her who've become accustomed to her standing so still. She exits the ship the way she came in, then turns sharply on the gangplank and steps right off the edge, plunging into the water-- except she doesn't sink. She stands on the surface, strolling out between the two ships that form the Union Santiago across the waves as easily as if she were strolling on the beach. A shape wells up behind her, surfacing as a colossal white sphere. This splits itself open, baring a maw of mismatched human-like teeth, and it is from this mouth that she retrieves objects with which to tinker while she walks.

    The fighter she'd dispatched to attend with Mathias and Renata in their planning meeting with the others turns where it perched, spreading its stubby wings and taking flight again. Exiting the hull gives a good glance at Midway herself down on the surface, working on something fashioned out of corroded black metal while her aircraft absolutely cheats the precarious catwalk crawl by flying. Her voice crackles through its speakers once more.

    "It is my curiosity alone that keeps me here; your repeated provocations have not gone unnoticed," It is clearly directed at Renata, "If your inability to restrain yourself results in damage to my equipment or my aircraft, I will cease my own restraint."

    The fighter banks lazily in the empty sky between the ships, waiting patiently for the less flight-inclined to navigate the catwalks. It then dives, swooping into the hole in the hull to remain with the group.
I4 I4 seems to consider something for a moment...his eyes are already calculating numbers in his head, but also what the Head Pointy-Man said.  He considers some things after a moment but gives a side-eye towards Kukuru.  "I could think of something you could trade, that's worth trading to the multiverse, and hilariously it might solve two of your issues...with some investment.  

"Desaltinators.  The salt can be gathered and sold, the clean water distributed, or if you're producing too much water released back into the ocean.  Depending on who you could open trade with..." he muses to the man, "If you and yours could get control on that, I imagine you could shift control away from them over time..."

"Or even use your leverage to make living here better in the long run for everyone," I4 considers.  "It'd be a long haul plan, but it'd be a start.."

The hiss causes I4 to jump, looking pale when he notices where it came from and the woman's cold eyes.  That gives him a real shiver...what is wrong with her..?  To respond to something like that is scary, even considering the monsters and their powers, that was barely a magic trick..?  

He does give a look towards Ahn, but he's more giving a look at Lotus.  The 'Please don't eat me I taste bad' look.  It was a joke bro.
Kukuru Neutron elaborates on what Kukuru was/wasn't saying, and it takes her a moment to try and decipher it before simply nodding and going along with it. "That sounds about right, mhm. We're always looking for people to help out, but there's rules for doing it sometimes, you know?" She elaborates to Matias while following along, not noticing the side-eye from I4 (or simply just not reacting) and smiling pleasantly all the while. She throws herself across wider gaps that have more room to maneuver, but opts to just teleport herself across the more precarious ones with narrow landing zones or little overhead room for a clear leap.

Yes, she's going to risk Renata's ire and getting shot if it means not having to actually balance beam her happy ass across anything. "I don't know much about the tech myself, but I do know that trade's not always about trading physical stuff. Sometimes, a person that knows a lot about doing certain kinds of stuff or is just really good at doing things can be worth way more than a big pile of money or rocks or whatever." Kukuru suggests, looking up for a moment before actually physically dragging herself up onto that catwalk.

Her movements are languid as ever, but she pulls herself up with brute force rather than relying on momentum or swinging her legs to get up there and keep pace. "I'm sure there's plenty of stuff your people could show ours. How to fight underwater, how to identify useful cool stuff, all sorts of things. Don't sell yourselves short!"

With that little pep talk/alliance pitch concluded, Kukuru tries following along with the more scientific aspects of the conversations. Ahn's and Midway's more complex analyses go right over her head, though, forcing Kukuru to instead let her mind bounce around other topics as she follows along the designated path and keeps an eye out in case anyone needs a save.

At one point, she also lags behind to slip a flask from her pocket towards Candy. It's good shit.

"Does the... Um. Capacity to support people ever go up? Or is it really just that bad here with nothing besides miracles that might bail you out?" Kukuru sounds anxious as she asks that, but it's clearly a lead-in as she speaks up shortly afterwards. "Because... You remember what I said before. The Concord can help you, if you're willing to let us in. Then everyone here might be able to make it out of all this."
Vantablitz Remnants     "Oh! My mistake! It's a little rude to use someone else's pet-name without permission, so I hope you forgive me." Ahn says, quarter-bowing apologetically to Neutron in a friendly sort of way. She is incredibly easy to read. Even when she smiles to Matias, it's tight, distant, and full of nostalgic sadness writ on her face. "But it turns out humans are really bad at going extinct. It's like someone half-hearted about suicide getting to the roof. The closer they get to the edge, the harder it is to step forward and let it happen. Humans are too important to simply let everyone disappear."

    When the group heads out into the sun, that 'radio voice' makes a loud, restful 'stretching noise', and then a flower like a lotus with very black petals and a green inner glow pops up in Ahn's hair like a decoration. She doesn't seem to notice. Crossing over the catwalk Midway is now beneath at sea level, the corrupted vibrato says "Be careful~ Maybe you're not the 'alpha predator' here~ Ahaha~"

    Ahn flinches at Renata's correction, as if she should know better-- actually, exactly like the Gifted Kid being snapped at by the teacher for being wrong. "S-sorry. I don't use a pressurized environment setup for diving so . . ." Another apology-bow. How embarrassing. Not diving below 500 meters. She tries to focus on Neutron now instead.

    "If it's lasted this long underwater, there can only be so many things it's made of. There's no need to prepare concrete cutters; it'll all have been horribly calcium-leeched. I don't know why it'd be up in the mountains, but then it also probably won't be bomb-proofed either. No bearing springs. If it's military, then it'll probably be . . . high-speed composites, high temperature tolerance, multiple redundant supports to prevent man-portable blasting . . . Hmm, it might actually be best to use treated drills and saws over torches? You have diamond bits, right? And lots of coolant. We don't want to use structural explosives since it's badly aged, but if you know about filling a safe with water, those kinds of non-reactive caps could be good. Failing that, I guess I could rig up a blue-green laser . . ." True to her promise, she is writing as she goes!
Redshift Operators     The agility of the Redshift Operators goes, in descending order: White Dwarf, Red Giant, Red Dwarf, and Neutron. Luckily, they're perfect at collaborations, with the gunman giving boosts to the astronaut, who can be caught by the ninja ahead. The ninja and astronaut choose to stay behind for a minute, watching the sunset. It's Red Dwarf who comes along. He speaks in a strange tone, somewhere between the tone of voice of someone reading off a script, someone delivering a prognosis, and someone vomiting into a toilet at a club. "'I know how it is. The world's strained to its breaking point. Rock things, unsettle things, lose a little capacity, and the tension snaps back, and who knows how much damage it causes?'" He says. Then he switches back to something more sincere. "Let's see the reactor. Need to know what kind of lifting gear it'll take to pull the parts outta the deep."

    "Yeah. People are important." Neutron agrees, nodding at Ahn. "People kill people more than nature does in most worlds. I think you're looking at Zeno's Paradox." The space-case looks out over the horizon. "I'll bring undersea-spec blast caps, some drills and saws, and Giant's coolant pack. Show me your laser even if you don't bring it." That's a request in tone, even if not in wording. The astronaut is sitting with their legs dangling over the end of the walkway now. "That helps me figure out my objectives. Giant will be able to lift almost anything out of there." They're tapping away at a tablet now, continuing to write this stuff down.
Hibiki Tachibana     Renata and Matias' reactions to Candy are impossible to miss--as is the mention of 'Teon Ma', whose identity gets elaborated on a bit further. There's a tense moment, at least by her standards. Her expression tightens up some in much the same way as the scene they walked in on, but she doesn't raise a fuss about it. Renata...

    The hole in the hull causes Hibiki to stop and blink for a scant few seconds - trying to imagine what in the world would have caused that, this high above water level - but in the interest of not getting left behind, she pushes on. The sunset over the sea is a not unfamilar sight to her either, but it still draws her eyes for a few seconds as they continue on over the creaking catwalk.

    Though she looks a little hesitant about it at first, the platforming segment put in front of them is something she doesn't have too many issues with. Aside from brief pauses to check that none of the pegs will give out on her when she puts her weight onto them, and curious peers at Midway far down below, she keeps pace behind Matias and the others well with agile and balanced movements.

    "Then that I can do," she replies to the Lead Harpoonist while schwinging on over. Thanks to Midway, it sounds like she's going to be in for...a new way of fighting. Between that and being able to transform in a pinch (breathing-capable or not), she's not worried about any sea monsters. "Easy."

    She says that casually, even though all of these other problems are still hanging overhead. "...Even if all you can do is fight..." She murmurs that under her breath to herself while hopping up to the hole they need to duck through. There's so many problems here and she doesn't know where to even begin working on any of them, let alone what the others are going back and forth about.

    But if fighting will help solve at least this problem affecting everyone, she'll give her all for that much. After that...she'll figure something out. The talk on the value of human life leaves her mostly silent as they push on towards the reactor. Mostly.

    "...We'll find a way."
Candy      Lilian and I4 are on the outs. All but disowned, he'd said. This draws a frown from Candy. "Yeah," he sadly admits. "Me, too." He pauses. "I'm sorry to hear that."

    It's okay if Red Dwarf doesn't know about building reactors--knowing how to blow things up makes Candy respect people more, not less! He places his hand on the operative's shoulder.

    Then the canteen is pierced.

    Candy doesn't flinch--his fingers don't even twitch. The water splatters out on the ground beneath him. There is a cold glare shot Renata's way, the rest of his body perfectly still--as his eyes were saying 'that's what I thought.' "Ana Sofia Zamorano's," he corrects Matias.

    "But somehow," he continues coolly, stepping through the hole in the hull, "I think her and him would get along." He came here to do a job, and he intends to see it done. Candy is just On the catwalk, in perfect position to stare Renata down when she finishes her wallrun. It's like reality forgot to load him in.

    "I see that things are bad, my friend. I do." The same trick gets him across the gap in the catwalk, without him having to swing across. "This reactor, that is something that affects everybody on this ship and a lot of people -not- on this ship. So I will help." Candy nods once. Then his expression hardens.

    "But after... you and me are going to talk, Matias." There is an unspoken 'and I dare you to do something about it' look hurled Renata's way, before he continues. "That's how you pay me for making you the reactor parts, and believe me, you will want to hear what I have to say, if that 'protecting humanity' stuff isn't bullshit. If protecting structures that support humanity is that important to you, you will want to hear what I say."

<J-IC-Scene> Vantablitz Remnants |Ahn says, "People in a situation this bad don't live this long by taking chances. Not on strangers, and especially not on strange things."

    "That's my ask," he says firmly to the 'lead harpoonist,' arms crossed as the pierced canteen disappears. "A chance."

You know he will not.
*Yeah. I know. But he can remember I gave -him- a chance, when I fucking do it anyway. When I 'rock the boat' and his little tin soldiers fall off.*

    Onlookers may notice that what precious little real estate exists in Candy's back right pocket is now occupied by a flask. Kukuru gets a grateful smile. She, in turn, is slipped a flower--a buttercup--that complements the shade of her hair.
Vantablitz Remnants     "Zeno's Paradox huh. That's a funny way of looking at it, but I see it." Ahn replies conversationally to Neutron. "Even if you sacrifice a set percent of the population over and over, it'll just infinitely approach zero, not reach it. You can always sacrifice some; what you can't stand is losing a static or random amount from external, uncontrolled forces." She nods with satisfaction. Yes. This makes sense. "You're very smart." Ahn decides.

    When he asks to see the laser, Ahn says. "Oh, it'd be something like this . . ." And points her finger down at the sea. A thin beam of blue-green light pierces the water below, barely visible in the air, but quite bright beneath the surface, wisps of steam rising from the waves in that spot.

    "But obviously a lot stronger. That wavelength scatters in water, so it isn't absorbed; it maintains heat on the point you're aiming at, rather than just heating up the water. Of course, a gamma ray laser would obviate that, but we don't want to use that near sensitive nuclear-reactive components, and other parts will be specifically shielded from it. I could-- Hey Lotus, do you mind drafting something up?" "Mmm? Something to do? And I was just about to nod off. Ahhh, well, it can't be helped. One minute~"
Rita Ma      When Renata's gaze catches the enormous toothy shape down in the water, a soft gasp escapes her. Her eyes widen; her spine stiffens. Possibilities race through her mind. She's clearly terrified it might be some kind of sea monster, and then even more alarmed that it isn't- at least, not one of her world.

     She doesn't remember to bite that panic back and try to look calm until Midway's talking orb reminds her of its presence. Her eyes dart to it, still wide with fear- and then a heartbeat later, with a sharp "khh", she regains some of her composure. "Noted," she says in that same carefully-neutral tone. Her fingers flex uncomfortably, unable to either reach for her knife or ball up into a fist.

     Whether due to Midway's intimidation or some clemency on her part, Renata overlooks Kukuru's teleportation. "Maybe," Matias answers her. "I hadn't really thought about what skills we might have that others could use. But I have difficulty imagining there are many. Harpoonists, maybe- I know there are monsters in other worlds, too. But we can't spare any of our own."

     "As for capacity..." He pauses. "Ships get holes in them and sink. Floating cities can be destroyed. And even concrete islands collapse beneath the waves. We've long hoped for a miracle; that someday the Earth's crust might drink enough water to at least give us the mountaintops back. But I don't think we'll live to see that day. It goes down. It always goes down."

     "Salt," Renata repeats to I4, like she can't believe what he's said. "Desalination takes space. Space on land is cheap. Space on a ship costs. We'd never compete." A pause, then, bitterly: "And who'd want salt that could give you the Fish Disease?"

     Those last few words are spat out from somewhere deep, deep in her heart; a rich and marinated hatred, not directed at I4, but capable of catching him in its splash damage.
Rita Ma      At the end of the maintenance corridor is a big, heavy, slightly rusted door. It looks like it hasn't been used in many years. Matias lays a hand on it, and then looks back at Candy with a thoughtful yet bitter expression. "I am scared, Candelario," he says. "Everyone thinking about what will make their lives better, like the man with the still. No-one thinking about the community. No-one thinking about if their children will get lives at all."

     "I am grateful for your help. And once this is done, I will give you that talk. But if you are thinking of whether the people are living well, before whether they are living at all, then I cannot listen." With a heaving effort, he twists the door's wheel and grindingly pries it open against the friction of the ages.

     On the other side is a brightly-lit room, full of consoles, buttons, switches, and displays. A few technicians are there, and startle badly at the door opening. Thick fake-glass and heavy doors separate it from another room, its walls lined with patchwork pipes and cables, and a water-filled pit in the center of the floor, the depths of which terminate in a complex chrome-and-black-metal assembly that glows a Cherenkov blue. It is surprisingly small all told, but extraordinarily elaborate, and it's hard to tell how much is even original. Up close fiddling would reveal most of it to be phenomenally dense- are they using osmium or iridium in this thing?

     "Hah! See, I told you I knew a shortcut," he says proudly, giving a thumbs-up to the technicians and then turning to lean against the wall. "The one in the city will be a lot like this, minus the water. Or, uh, plus a lot of water, ahaha! Whatever you need to do, go on and do it." Renata adds in that practiced neutral tone, "I'm watching you."

     She turns on Red Dwarf a moment later, stepping towards him and staring into his face with eyes given an unearthly hue by his optics' reflection. "Yes," she says, her neutral voice given a subtle vibrato by some horrible emotion. "'Everything strained to the breaking point'. Take that helmet off and look around you. That's exactly how it is."

     "Think about why everything's made of scrap. Think about why we eat seaweed and cassava. Think about how a ship's lead protectors get to be a one-armed man and a filthy refugee. Where-" "Hey," Matias interjects firmly. Renata balls her hands up so tight it seems like her nails are about to break skin and shakes with tension, then abruptly turns away and walks to the far corner of the room.

     Matias lets out a little breath, and glances over at Hibiki kindly. "You'll be fine," he says in the most reassuring voice he can muster. "Your first time diving, huh? ... When you're underwater, stab instead of cutting. Or if you can't stab, grab and tear. You can't hit hard unless you're braced against something- the ground, a wall, the monster itself. That's how you get 'em."
Candy      "I get it," says Candy to Matias simply.

*Wary is better than shitty, at least.*

    When the door is open, he turns to Ahn. "You're the nuke-you-lar expert, ah? So let's do this. You take a look, find out what the damage is. What's missing or broken."

    "Then you explain to me what those things do and how they are supposed to work, and I get them to you. What I can't make, we dive for."

*The thinking machines with the little typewriter buttons--these I remember from Olympus. I hope Ms. Ahn is good at explaining stuff like this to dummies like me...*
Midway     Industriously, Midway continues to work on the equipment she is designing, standing there on the waves for all to see. Make no mistake, this is a monster. But, a monster capable of something other than mindless destruction. And in this case, a monster who has decided that there is an aligned goal worth pursuing here. Whatever the Princess' reasoning for being here as anything other than a threat, however, she has not been so clear on. What takes shape between her hands is a bulky glove crafted from blackened steel, the fingers hanging limply as she turns it over to work on something inside. Behind her, the Abyssal's parasite remains still, its mouth open, releasing a faint column of red smoke in the light of the setting sun.

    "Of course it goes down," Midway's aircraft speaker crackles, "Entropy is merciless. Even the finest warship will eventually rot away into little more than particulate rust. To say nothing of the men on board it." The 'plane' banks inside the maintenence room, landing once more on top of one of the consoles where there are no buttons it can inadvertently press. Once more it stands on stubby little legs, turning in place ot examine the scattered controls and readouts with that single red eye.

    "Unfamiliar. Not unknowable. I shall leave this to Ahn and use it as a learning experience."

    Because the war ghost learning about nuclear physics is absolutely a good idea.
Kukuru Kukuru's unfamiliar with flowers that she can't eat, so the buttercup is a welcome surprise. She giggles softly while fiddling with it, then sticks it in her hair as a matter of FASHION, and it gives it a nice little pop!

It might also look a little silly since she's wearing it dead center atop her head instead of stylishly off to the side.

"I'm sure your people can come up with something cool besides money or physical stuff we've probably already got. You all got this far with smart thinking and not giving up just because things are hard, right?" Kukuru keeps up that encouraging tone as she appears besides Matias, smiling brightly at him and Renata, especially with the latter being rather upfront with expressing her feelings of fear.

Kukuru also grunts lightly lightly when she walks right into something in her haste to keep up. "You just gotta find out what special thing you've got that we can't get anywhere else, and the Concord'll be able to handle the rest to make sure your people aren't doomed to that Zeno's... Thing." She picked up on that finally! Sort of. "Fixing stuff, protection, there's nothing the Concord can't do once you're part of our family. Still, there's no rush to figure it all out now. Just... Think about it, okay?  I believe in you."

It's a lot of vague promises, but she sounds like she believes every word of that offer she's making.

Eventually, they reach the reactor room, and Kukuru waves lightly at the frightened-looking technicians to try and reassure them. On the plus side, she's not armed, but she's also clearly a stranger among weirdos.

"I can't really help with the reactor fixing part unless you need something moved or whatever, but... Um. If you do need that, just point me where you need me. Or..." Kukuru taps on her coat pocket. "If anyone wants a snack, I've got those, too!"
I4 I4 listens to Renata, he takes it in stride, while inwardly depressed that it's hard for these people to the point that it's easier to see the flaws in the problems without thinking of the benefits and potential as well.  It must be like Ahn was saying, a side effect of thinking only of survival.  Maybe this is why INDUS uses Androids, so that the people didn't have to think like that...why bother when the Androids can suffer for you?  

"Well, the salt likely couldn't transmit anything.  Assuming this is a water-borne illness, and it would have to be to survive in the ocean...pure salt would dry it out, destroying its cell walls.  On top of that, any processing would likely kill anything else before being used.  You have an entire ocean, with space to work on.  At first, your operation would be small." I4 considers.  

"In the long term, it could easily become sustainable.  I am not saying there aren't logistical challenges to overcome, but it isn't impossible either.  I can analyze the numbers and provide an estimation in both costs and return...if...do we have anything to write on?"
Vantablitz Remnants     For just a few seconds, while crossing the last walk, Ahn speaks to Renata again, and this time her voice lacks any of that previous tryhard and eager to please tension to it at all. "Don't worry. I see it. If it comes down to it, Lotus and I know exactly what to do." she says, making a silent hand signal at the same time. For just that one moment, she doesn't sound like an awkward engineer at all. Bomb disposal. Big game hunter. Special forces. Take your pick; either way, it is the sound of someone who is unmistakably housemates with death.

    It all dissipates at the desalination comment. "I4, um, I'm sorry but, I don't think the 'free market' will fix this one." she says, sucking air through her teeth in an uncomfortable and mildly distasteful way. "Miss Kukuru, not everyone has something valuable to give. Not having anything, and not having anything to trade, are usually linked, wouldn't you know?"

    Entering the reactor room, she exclaims "Wow! I was expecting this to be a really classic model, seeing how beat up everything else is, but this is cutting edge for an aircraft carrier! No wonder it's kept running so long!" She's just about to run right off to it, when Renata's bile all comes back.

    Apparently not knowing what else to do, Ahn stops, turns, glances eye contact, and then ruefully pulls up the bottom of her Rita-copy blouse by a foot, exposing a portion of the zigzag tapestry of scars across her midriff, before quickly stuffing it back down. "I'd like to believe that people who have been thrown away once can be trusted that much more not to take people for granted." she says, and hurriedly turns back to the reactor pool.

    Rather than jumping right in and disturbing all the technicians, Ahn crouches by the side, and says "Your turn." to a reply of "Finally." Holding her left forearm out at neck level, the sleeve of Ahn's jacket vibrates turns pitch black, as if soaked in ink, extends over her hand, and then 'settles' into shiny white enamel armour with woven 'solar cell' black between the plates. Over her forearm, a distortion like a funhouse mirror appears, which warps terribly and incomprehensibly as she moves it around in front of her.

    From any angle other than 'very close to where she is', it looks like garbled nonsense, but at just the right position, the light in the room is bent such that individual regions around, and even inside, the reactor, are blown up in magnified three dimensions as if on a projected screen from an itty bitty flying camera zooming all around it.

    Ahn is not *technically* a nuclear scientist, but she doesn't need to say that. She spent over a century maintaining, and then improvising on, a nuclear reactor of her own, amongst a hundred other science projects. Even if it isn't the same model, her technological intuition and inductive reason are not to be underestimated at this point. Withdrawing a mini notebook from her bag, she flips it open, sets it down on her thigh, and scribbles with a ballpoint pen while she scans.
Hibiki Tachibana     "You guys keep losing and losing more, until..." Hibiki intones quietly on the subject of 'capacity'. She doesn't know how long it'll take, but the idea that it's inevitable is...sad. But she knows better than anyone that miracles can happen. They might not be something that'll happen without cause, but they exist. If there's even a slight chance that something can be done, one way or another...

    The thought gives her back a little bit of the energy that she had lost by the time they're entering into the reactor chamber. The place is simultaneously incredibly impressive and smaller than she might have expected, and she can make heads or tails of approximately none of it. 'Bring back one of everything' has suddenly become a much bigger task when she's not even sure she could count how many things go into keeping this thing running. Needless to say, she's not going to be approaching that thing in favor of the experts.

    Which leaves her free to watch the brief rise of emotion from Renata. That kind of outburst...is something she knows really well. Seeing it from the other side isn't easy, and she can't blame her either. Her eyes follow her all the way to the end of the room until Matias speaks up towards her directly.

    After a slightly surprised blink and carefully listening to him, she puts on a small smile for...actually, it's probably the first one she's had since she got here. "You gotta be braced...thanks--uh...sir. I'll remember that." She gives a little nod for emphasis. If nothing else, she's gained a slightly better appreciation for how much he must work to keep things stable around here...and keep any of that kindness at all, when she imagines it'd be all too easy to be in Renata's boat.

    "Stab, grab, and tear. I'll make sure we'll get every last part back," she promises for the second time. Right. First things have to come first. She won't get anywhere worrying until they have those replacements. Everything else and understanding more can come after that.
Rita Ma      Renata pauses before heading to her quiet corner. Her eyes linger on Ahn's for a bit longer than they need to, and on the scars barely at all. "You're right," she says simply. "You 'didn't do anything to deserve that.' I'm sorry."

     "See, you're looking determined now," Matias says to Hibiki with a little laugh. "I like that look. I've never seen anyone go out with that look and not come back. He claps her on the shoulder warmly with his meat-hand, which is still liable to accidentally bowl her over, and nods as he glances up at the reactor. "It's scary stuff. I'd go down there with you myself, if I were allowed to. But somehow, I've got a feeling you can pull it off."

     "Maybe it's a chemical mutagen," Renata says to I4, knee-jerk. "We don't know it's alive." Then a pause. She crosses her arms over her abdomen, but audibly softens as she thinks over his words. Her eyes turn away. "Maybe. Maybe something like that. I guess most worlds wouldn't have diving equipment like this. There's no reason to invent it if there's no cities on the seafloor."

     A pause. Her tone slides back to 'normal'. "But that won't solve all our problems. You've seen what's wrong with this ship. Some diving suits aren't worth as much as a fix would cost, even if we don't need them ourselves."

     At this point, people are crowding near the railings on both halves of the Union Santiago just to get a better look at Midway and what she's doing, though none of them are brave enough to get close or interfere. Predictably, the technicians are briefly horrified by her flying sphere until they realize that nobody else is concerned.

     Almost nobody, anyway. Renata stares at Midway's fighter as it examines the controls, then trades a glance with Matias. "Relax," he says, and it sounds like an order more than a recommendation. She looks away without acknowledgement.

     Ahn's detailed examination gets her a shopping list the length of her arm. Gadolinium-alloy lattice pins as burnable poisons to stabilize output in the face of waning fuel, diamondoid heat transfer components, gold-beryllium neutron reflectors... but the last one is by far the heaviest, and therefore the most inconvenient to bring up from the depths.

     If Candy can manufacture something to serve the same purpose- a dense neutron-reflective casing that engulfs the fuel- they could swap it in and reverse-engineer the original part, rather than having to haul a second one up from the sea floor. That could make the difference between success and failure in the upcoming mission.
I4 I4 starts to look a little dejected by that latest comment, but then...

"That...is true, I didn't think of that. I could actually look into that for you and yours, at least give you some names to start wtih," A pause, "It's rough too, in my home. I was used as a soldier, for people who lived in a city that I never got to enjoy. Always hunting monsters who wanted to eat us. Sorry if I was sounding a bit soap box-y."
Midway     Those gathering to observe Midway are treated to the show of sparks and rhythmic hammering. When at last she completes her work, the gauntlet is raised and she plunges her hand into it. Hefting the equipment, she flexes the fingers one at a time-- and then forms a fist. A moment later, the fingers splay out.

    "Sufficient," is all the Princess says out loud. Her head turns, casting a single glowing crimson side-eye at the audience that had been accumulating on more dry spaces. She wrenches the gauntlet off, tossing it into the yawning maw of her arsenal parasite which snaps shut. The thing then simply sinks, disappearing out of sight whence it came. Only then does the Princess return to shore, her arms folded as she processes reports from her Nu-Class trade vessels.

    "So. Steel is of no interest to you. But you crave oil. Very well."
Vantablitz Remnants     Before leaving Renata, Ahn tries to laugh it off as best she can. "No need to apologize! I get it!" Just before she reaches the pool, she then mumbles "Wow, Miss Renata is really empathetic. Almost like a mind-reader."

    Then, Ahn scribbles away in a frenzy. Her handwriting is cramped and neat. Much of the notepad is taken up by short notation with little diagrams of molecular structure, taking up less page space than writing the full name; one of a million little micro-habits in 'making things last'. She sucks in air through her teeth. It is a sound every technician in the room should recognize as 'disappointed concern'.

    "Mister Candelario, how good are you with chemical engineering? Metalwork? Some of these are very exotic admixtures, and most of these need very precise dimension control. I suppose the casing might be . . ." She hands over the notepad without tearing her gaze away, focused completely on the reactor. If he has any questions to ask, she will explain them in a way comprehensible to a total layman; such is one advantage of being self-taught. "I don't really look forward to lifting hundreds of tons of solid material out of the ocean. I can handle carbon-derived heat transfer materials myself, but that much earth metal? It might best if we study this one on-site for maximum efficiency. I can think of an improv fix in the meantime! Do you know what a neutron is?" Cue return to school.
Candy      "I sure don't," says Candy, thumbing his suspenders with an impish little grin. "I grew up on a farm, and Gregorian calendar says it's 1921 back home. But I will tell you, if you can explain the neutrons and the earth metals to me like I am the biggest dummy you ever met, then I can make whatever we need," he says proudly. "Might not be pretty! But it will work, I guarantee."

     Candy studies the notes--not that he wasn't trying in vain to look over Ahn's shoulder while she was taking them to begin with. He flips through them...

     "Before you start sweating," he says with a grin, "You oughta know I built a thinking machine like one of those," he says, jerking a thumb behind him at one of the computers, "Without ever having seen one, for a Space Station. It looked pretty weird compared to the rest of the stuff, but it got the job done, ah?"

     "I can make most things, and even if I don't make it one-to-one, it ends up doing what it needs to do anyway. That's what the book educated people call Creation. Something like a metal, or a chemical... that ought to be easier than something with a lotta moving parts." He nods. "Let's get to work!" School is in session.
Vantablitz Remnants     Ahn now gets to explain nuclear fission to Candy from the idiot perspective she learned from, involving a rather silly analogy of critical mass being like trying to boil water with just sunlight; how the light mostly passes through the water so you need a mirror to reflect it back, and if you have mirrors everywhere then it can reflect the light through the water so many times it gets fully absorbed.

     She calls neutrons a special kind of light, and how it only reflects from certain things; she goes over graphite, steel, tungsten, gold, and skips beryllium. So really, he needs a big, solid, single-piece (really, pieces that fit together absolutely perfectly) mirror of the heaviest possible materials (gold and tungsten carbide in her recommendation) that can wrap around the sun in the middle of all that water and reflect it right back into the center, over and over forever. There are diagrams!

    Eeeaaaaassyyyy.
Candy Time stops.

Ahn's smiling face is frozen, fingers hover over keyboards mid-sequence, the hum of machinery is now silent.

*Well, you heard the lady. Alloy of gold and tungsten carbide. Whatever the fuck that is.*


More easily done than you may imagine, boy. First, we will play for what the Romans call 'wolframite.'

A hand of la Vida later, and there is now a substantial heap of dark grey, angular ore piled up wherever there is free space.

Skillfully done, as always. Now, carbon.

*Fuck is that?*

Let us keep it simple and say it may be found in diamonds. You remember diamonds, yes? From the governor's reliquary?

Diamonds hang now, frozen, intermingled with the darker minerals.

*That just leaves gold.*


Indeed, though you will also need a furnace and the tools to shape the mixture as Ahn instructed. ...

    Time resumes.
-There is a cacophony of things falling, as if someone had decided to bang every pot and pan in the galley in the reactor room.
-Hissing follows thereafter, and then the blowing of a bellows.
-Rapid pounding of metal on metal. It's as if the room had briefly become a foundry.
-Exactingly measured plates of gold-tungsten carbide alloy clank heavily on the ground.

     Ahn will find them proportioned exactly such that they will be perfectly flush with one another upon installation, able to create one contiguous reflector.

     Candy wipes sweat from his brow. "That was a pain in the ass to do, in this little room."